|Index||10 reviews in total|
While this may sound totally implausible to most, the film this most resembled, for me, was Claire Denis's recent release FRIDAY NIGHT (VENDREDI SOIR), a French European film with little or no dialogue, but it is an impressionistic mosaic which the viewer can follow. Here, in a film that, culturally, more closely resembles an Iranian film, like THE DAY I BECAME A WOMAN, it is literally an odyssey of images, with little to no narrative, only the images tell the story, and it ends up being an exhilarating experience, suitable for nearly all ages, that is a rare treat "outside" experimental film. This is one of the most tender, gentlest films I've ever seen, which relies in large degree, on the West African music which is featured prominently throughout, particularly at the finale which I found excruciatingly beautiful. A rare treat.
"Heremakono" ("Waiting for Happiness") is a pure cinematic treat. A
film in which the camera work, the minimal use of dialogue, the images
themselves, are meant to tell the story, is what the Mauritanian-born,
Russian-educated director, Abderrahmane Sissako, decided to grace the
big screen with. We are made to share the day-to-day life of a little
community from Nouadhibou, a small seaside village on the Mauritanian
coast. It is a transit city, with predominantly temporary housing,
called "heremakono", the Hassianyan for "waiting for happiness".
The film's charm is that we, the viewers, are forced to become temporary inhabitants. We learn disjointed information about the lives of the people we encounter in our way: Maata is the electrician who knows little about his job; Khatra is the orphaned boy who finds his shelter under Maata's protection; Abdallah is the son that decided to visit his mother before emigrating to Europe, frustrated by his rootless past; Nana is the local prostitute who lost a daughter from a failed relationship; Tchu is the corner's dealer of useless objects, trying to integrate in the distorted web of this deserted place. None find happiness in this exile before the voyage, and yet "maybe waiting is actually happiness" (Sissako).
Jacques Besse's remarkable cinematography and especially Oumou Sangare's soothing music are two shadows that are to hunt you for days after you've seen "Heremakono". A light bulb will never be only a light bulb, nor its light will ever identify with happiness. We all search for light, and only when we find it, then we switch it off, and only then do we gain peace. This seems to be the final message of "Waiting for Happiness".
Sissako, like Scorsese, does not consider time an enemy. He allows us enjoy the moment, its vibration, its numbness. And this is more laudable if we consider that most characters are played by non-professional actors. And what beautiful performances we are offered, especially from the young Khatra Ould Abdel Kader. A true talent! Beauty and peace . What more should we want
In Nouadhibou, a lonely and isolated village sandwiched between the Atlantic
Ocean and the Sahara Desert in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Abdullah
(Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamed), a seventeen-year old boy, arrives from Mali
to visit his mother before leaving for Europe. Unable to speak the local
Hassanya language and dressed only in Western clothes, he is a stranger in a
strange land. The film is Waiting for Happiness, in which Mauritanian
director Aderrahmane Sissako portrays the conflict between Western
modernization and local African traditions, basing the story on his own
experience of exile and return. It won the International Film Critics award
for best film in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes in 2002.
The film is virtually plotless and without dramatic arc, but filled with memorable images of a culture whose way of life is threatened by Western values. Feeling like an outcast, Abdullah sits by an open window watching a photographer taking portraits, a merchant selling veils, women singing and flirting, an Asian immigrant's karaoke serenading his girlfriend, and a mother playing the Kora while teaching traditional songs to her young daughter. He struggles to learn some Hassanya words from Khatra (Khatra Ould Abder Kader), a ten-year old electrician's apprentice, but his heart is not in it. The only bonds he establishes are with Nana, a prostitute who tells him her story of being rejected by her husband when she went to visit him in France. Abdullah finally agrees to dress in native clothes, but his awkward attempts to fit in only underscore his alienation.
The film celebrates community, moving between characters and incidents to explore the traditions that the villagers want to preserve, and their struggle with symbols of progress. The electrician Maata (Maata Ould Mohamed Abeid) has difficulty getting electricity to work even with the help of his young apprentice Khatra. Maata tries to teach Khatra his trade, but without much success. In a touching sequence, after failing to install a light bulb in a primitive home, Khatra senses that his master is feeling bad, puts his arm around the old man's shoulders and tells him over and over again that everything's going to be all right. Maata is a surrogate father for the orphaned boy and instructs him in the ways of the world. In one moving scene, Matta tells him of a friend who sailed away to Spain and France, never to be heard from again, as Khatra falls asleep, resting his head against the old man's chest.
Nouadhibou is a sort of limbo in which travelers wait to begin their journey abroad, the women wait for a husband, the boys wait to grow up, people come and go. Backed by the haunting music of Oumou Sangare, Sissako beautifully captures the day-to-day reality in a part of the world that has been hidden to Westerners. Images become transfixed in the mind: the windswept sand; a refugee's body washed ashore; a group of ominous-looking trawlers anchored off the coast slowly sinking in the mud; pristine whitewashed buildings shining in the West African heat; an old man walking in the desert carrying a flickering light bulb. Waiting For Happiness is a poignant meditation on the transience of life and the conflict between progress and tradition. Reminiscent of the films of Kiarostami in it's languid pace and use of nonprofessional actors, the film takes a while to get you in its grip, but when it does, it refuses to let go.
While this may sound totally implausible to most, the film this most resembled, for me, was Claire Denis's recent release FRIDAY NIGHT (VENDREDI SOIR), a French-European film with little or no dialogue, but it is an impressionistic mosaic which the viewer can follow. Here, in a French-Mauritanian film that, culturally, more closely resembles an Iranian film, like THE DAY I BECAME A WOMAN, it is literally an odyssey of images, with little to no narrative, only the images tell the story, and it ends up being an exhilarating experience, suitable for nearly all ages, that is a rare treat "outside" experimental film. This is one of the most tender, gentlest films I've ever seen, which relies in large degree, on the Malian West African music by Oumou Sangare which is featured prominently throughout, particularly at the finale which I found excruciatingly beautiful. A rare treat.
This is a quiet, unpretentious little film that should not be seen by
those whose cinematic preferences run towards car-chases and
Rambo-shoot'emups. It portrays life in a Mauretanian (Northwest
African) small coastal town called Nouhadhibou. We meet an
elderly electrician named Maata and his pre-teen apprentice
Khadra (the star of the show); another subplot, less interesting in
my view, tells the story of a son returning from overseas; he
speaks only French and not the local Hassanya language, so he
is condemned to remain an outsider.
You can predict whether you will like this film or not by whether or not you like recent Iranian films. As in such films, nothing particularly newsworthy ever happens in _En attendant le bonheur_ : people just go about the everyday business of living their lives, lives which are punctuated by the tranquil dailuy rituals of Islam. For me the charm of this film resides, as it does in much Iranian cinema, largely in the beauty of the images (bright blues and reds of the local fabrics against the white of the omnipresent sand dunes); and the sheer luxurious leisureliness of the pace (watch the scene where two interlocutors argue about whether X is in Tangiers or is Spain : Interlocutor 1 ; He's in Spain. (25 second pause). Interlocutor 2: He's in Tangier. Interlocutor 1 (40 second pause) : He's in Spain. Interlocutor 2 (60 second pause): he's in Tangier, etc., etc....)
Above all, what will stay in my mind is the beautiful relation between the young apprentice Khadra and the wizened old electrician Maata. Maata is, in fact, extremely crabby, and he's not much of an electrician. In one scene he attempts to string up a lightbulb in a woman's house ; it doesn't work, no matter what he tries. Later we see Matta and Khatra sitting outside the house ; Matta is smoking, and his dignified, weatherbeaten face shows no sign of emotion. Yet Khadra can tell his master is feeling bad ; he puts his arm around the old man's shoulders and tells him over and over again, with a repetitiousness Western customs would find intolerable, that everything's going to be all right. The other memorable aspect of the film : an old *griotte* or traditional singer, brilliantly gifted, teaches her craft to a girl of about twelve. Their singing, alternatively spine-tinglingly virtuoso and hoarsely off-key, punctuates the film to tremendous effect.
One is left with an impression of dignity, melancholy, fragility and imminent loss, marked by images and moments of striking beauty and tremendous gentleness, as when, around a nighttime fire, Matta tells the story of a long-lost friend who gave in to the temptations of sailing away to the mysterious lands of Spain and France, never to be heard from again ; as Khatra falls asleep, resting his head against the old man's chest.
Sounds corny ? Perhaps it is ; or perhaps the fact that we find it so tells us more about our own jaded cynicism than about the way of living of such resolutely non-Western countries. Recent Iranian films, which also like to use the viewpoint of children to show an innocent way of looking at life of which we cynical Westerners have long since ceased to be capable, are regularly lambasted by the oh-so-hip Parisian press : such films have no political consciousness, it is claimed ; no avant-garde cinematographic techniques, no pretentious imagery. Yet Sissako's film provides us with precious insight into the day-to-day life of the people of Mauretania, whom we might otherwise known only as statistics in some obscure war or famine. They show us a world wholly different from ours, which initially strikes us as appallingly boring and primitive, but soon has us wondering which of us - the Mauretanians or us inhabitants of Western late-capitalist "democracies" - are really living the more authentic, dignifed, and satisfying existence.
A brilliant film. It reminded me of Tokyo Story in many ways, which is recommendation by itself. This portrait of people who wait and loose- family and friends, a picture of goodbyes and staying by yours. Truly fascinating. Sissako is one of the best authors of our time. He created a certain feeling that has got nothing to do with your standard expectations. It goes from the people, from the place, and from their time. He created such tempo between them that you can know exactly how they feel or in which state they are- just from the atmosphere of their faces. They sing. They behave. They maintain. Some don't. It's different from Kim Ki Duk films. People were looking comparisons even in there, but I think it goes on completely different levels.
While not for everyone (the antithesis of a Hollywood film), "Waiting For Happiness" is pure cinema at its finest, and one of the best African movies I have ever seen. Reminiscent of contemporary Iranian cinema," Sissako's poetic imagery resonates with a sense of place and describes the lives of those who inhabit it. While there is an absence of plot and scripted dialog, as well as no clear protagonist, the story is marked by the characterizations and tempo that reveal a community sandwiched between the ocean and the dessert; between ancient rituals and adaptations to modernity, fluctuating between hope and acceptance, life and death, always with patience and dignity. Full of quiet compassion, everything swept by the wind, "Waiting For Happiness," doesn't explain everything. Instead, it gives you an experience that is palpable for you to make sense of.
Living next to the sea in the white windy sand dunes, with Sahara
desert all around.
Waiting for. Sat inside a listless life. Waiting that isn't procrastinating. Cus there's nothing waiting to be done.
If you don't mind waiting if you actually prefer waiting as an antidote to too much busy doing you'll like this film.
The wind whirling around that sand. Jan Gabarek saxophone comes out of car stereo. Surprising touch of contemporary modernity.
More like a vernacular documentary than a scripted drama. Watch it like you listen to music, like you were that young daughter singing along with her mother playing the kora.
Reminiscent of Iranian film The Day I became a Woman. The sea, sand, the white light, vivid cotton colours of clothes worn, those sheets flapped by the wind. Relationships between old electrician and his young apprentice for example having the symbolic tenderness of a timeless parable.
How many African films have i seen? Not many. Mauritania looks unfamiliar, feels unknown. Where is Mauritania anyway? A languid quiescence bleaches out of almost every scene. I can feel myself wanting to lie back and be as quiet as the characters are.
This is a proper film. By proper i mean owned by the director, belonging somewhere personal and close to heart. Not a made for cinema confection.
There's something beautiful as well as truthful about the compassionate integrity of this film.
What a beautiful film to see. I lucked out when it came on satellite.
It just ended. I was supposed to take a nap to do something later but I
couldn't resist watching this film. The photography is wonderful. It's
quiet but totally worth watching.
The storyline is universal to being in a family. To see such beautiful people presented in traditional clothing is fantastic. The traditional music is entrancing and used effectively throughout the film. The photography of women is luscious and loving. Scenes of women dancing and singing shine in my mind. The director is top of the line, a-number-one.
In this film's rather drifting narrative we join several characters
including Adalah, a young man who doesn't fit in with his society and
tends to read alone a lot and Khatra, a young boy in the care of an old
man who uses him as an assistant when he works as an electrician. Their
stories unfold with a pace that would make a glacier think that perhaps
he should put the breaks on a little himself so as to keep up his
reputation. Very little happens and it happens very slowly; some of it
doesn't seem to be going anywhere while other bits of it seem to go
somewhere but never anywhere that would suggest that it was a narrative
that was driving it.
If this sounds a problem then that is because I felt that it was. I'd like to pretend that I am some arty type and that the drifting air to a film doesn't bother me but it did here because I felt I was missing something and perhaps I was. Not knowing anything of import about Mauritania I struggled to find a meaning or metaphor below the surface simply because I won't have been able to read it even if it was obvious to others. Without this it does still serve as an insight into the community where progress sits uneasily beside the daily grind of tradition and, although this isn't that well laid out, it does still provide some reason for keeping watching.
In some films improvisation is a good thing and has worked well but here it contributes to the feeling of a snapshot rather than a story. That said, the cast of almost all non-actors perform well and produce some natural and interesting performances. Mohamed's Adalah could have really done with more lines to flesh out his character because, try as he might, he doesn't make much of an impression. Kader is much better as Khatra, he makes an interesting character and is utterly convincing and enjoyable. The support cast have plenty of natural performances although they provide more of a sense of a community rather than interesting individuals. Sissako's direction is good and the film looks good the bleak look matching the quiet and lowkey material and characters.
Overall this is a very slow film that goes nowhere and goes there pretty slowly. Without a knowledge of the country I cannot really comment on whether subtexts and such are present or if they work but it is still an interesting look at the community. The story is almost absent apart from small turns but if you can cope with the emptiness and rather bleak beauty of it then it is worth seeing just don't expect a great deal from it.
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